Most patients (80%) with ovarian cancer (OvCa) present with metastatic disease. Attachment of OvCa cells to peritoneum and omentum represents the first rate-limiting step for metastatic spread. Therefore, identifying factors regulating cell attachment in the abdominal cavity is critical to the development of therapeutic agents. We show here that MMP-2 expression was upregulated in OvCa cells upon attachment to their microenvironment. Downregulation of MMP-2 mRNA or pharmacological inhibition of MMP-2 proteolytic function, in both human OvCa primary cells and cell lines, reduced attachment of OvCa cells to a 3D organotypic model of metastatic OvCa, full human omentum or peritoneum, and in vivo to mouse peritoneum and omentum. Absence of MMP-2 in the host did not alter OvCa adhesion, as determined utilizing mice harboring homozygous null mutations in either the Mmp2 or Mmp9 genes. Conversely, adhesion induced upregulation of MMP-2 mRNA in OvCa cells. MMP-2 inhibition in OvCa cells through pharmacological or antibody treatment prior to i.p. dissemination in nude mice significantly decreased tumor growth and metastasis and extended survival. MMP-2 enhanced peritoneal adhesion of OvCa cells through cleavage of ECM proteins fibronectin (FN) and vitronectin (Vn) into small fragments and increased binding of OvCa cells to these FN and Vn fragments and their receptors, α5β1 and αVβ3 integrin. These findings indicate that MMP-2 expressed by metastatic OvCa cells functionally regulates their attachment to peritoneal surfaces.
Hilary A. Kenny, Swayamjot Kaur, Lisa M. Coussens, Ernst Lengyel